In the recent The Elder Scrolls Online preview video, the part that piqued my interest was when they started talking about the “megaserver,” e.g. going serverless. Incidentally, this topic was something I wrote about just over a year ago:

  • Eliminate named, permanent servers entirely.

Essentially, set up the servers like an ice-cube tray and as each server fills up, it spills over into the next server, and divide it all into game regions. One huge benefit of this would be to allow there to always be a steady population of people leveling in every zone for group questing, etc.

Example: if I went to Borean Tundra right now, there may be 1 person questing there on Auchindoun, and maybe 5 on Maeiv, and 50 on Tichondrius. Under this methodology, there would be 56, up until an arbitrary cut-off. And if the cut-off is 100, I would have it start transferring people to a second zone instance at around ~70 so the 101st guy isn’t off by himself. The key would be to make it subtle, with no load-screen or anything. With phasing technology it should not be a problem.

Obviously, my Nostradamus-like predicting skills failed to account for the very real structural problems WoW has with Cross-Realm Zones (people = competition, etc). But as is demonstrated with games like Guild Wars 2, it is quite possible to foster a more-is-merrier environment with a few tweaks to the formula. And, indeed, the TESO video goes on to say a lot of GW2-esque things in terms of everyone getting equal credit for kills, no competition between players, and so on.

With the formula issue settled, and provided there are methods available to get into the same “instance” as your friends, are there really any good arguments against going serverless?

Keen’s soft criticism of TESO likely being all “instancing and lobbying” falls a bit flat to me when he graded GW2′s “Presentation of a MMORPG World” a B+; not only is GW2 pretty heavily instanced already (plus Overflow servers), there is literally an in-game PvP lobby as well. As long as the frequency of load screens is kept to a minimum, I don’t think many people will be able to tell any difference. And, hell, if the TESO programmers can engineer some WoW-level seamless map transitions instead, it will be a major design coup.

In any case, the Megaserver deal was the only actual thing that piqued my interest with the TESO gamble thus far. Some people are flogging the “real game begins at endgame” statement, but that is arguably true in any MMO with finite levels.¹ Design musings aside, I am much more concerned about whether it would be fun to play, which is something we will not be able to see until the inevitable beta buy-in.

¹ Yes, including GW2. Unless you managed to complete your Story or jump to Orr straightaway, content was gated by your level. To say nothing about how one’s behavior² likely changes at the cap in regards to farming explorable dungeons, legendaries, and vanity gear in general.

² Bhagpuss notwithstanding, of course.

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Posted on November 9, 2012, in Commentary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. It reduces the feeling of ‘community’, I think, for better or worse. One does tend to get to know people on your server; doing away with disparate servers makes it a lot harder to foster an actual community because the mass of people is just too big and anonymous.

    In addition, some people specifically prefer to seek out crowded servers for the company or the big AH market or whatever; others specifically prefer low-pop servers so as to be uninterrupted and/or not have to deal with competition/lag/whatever.

    I dunno; I’m torn. Maybe I’m too much of a traditionalist – I’d miss servers if they went away, and the lack of a server identity in games like GW2, TSW etc was a definite negative for me. But on the other hand, there are a lot of annoyances that are unavoidable when you split the population into servers, and megaservers make sense from a logistical perspective. I guess I just miss the idea of seeing the same people at the vendors as you prep for your raids, or seeing recognisable names in general chat on a regular basis.

  2. I wonder if they’ll allow players to jump around between the multiple zones instance. I hope not, I really hate games that allow that. Completely kills the MMO atmosphere imo.

  3. In EQ2, when a particular zone gets overcrowded, they created another instance of the whole zone. You can easily switch between these instances and play with friends etc. EQ2 has servers still, so it looks like TESO people are using the same instanced idea but removing the servers bit.

    In the early days of EQ2, many of the overland named mobs were contested and on long respawn timers so when they are dead on one instance you may find them alive on another!

  4. There are so many horrible statements in that video I spent over an hour discussing them with my friends last night.

    I mean, the first guy to speak almost immediately discredits himself by saying they want to attract both TES fans and MMO fans to the game. What a load of shit. TES fans by and large are, and should be, enraged by this game.

    They rape the lore sideways in their first couple of blurbs about factions. They replace the combat with faux-action tab-targeting nonsense that sounds like an even worse implimentation of what GW2 does. And they have the temerity to claim that following symbols on your minimap to quests is “exploring.”

    I can’t fathom the desicion to devalue the Elder Scrolls brand by catering to a group of people who think that it’s a fan-fucking-tastic idea to add little Skyrim to their WoW, with some bits lifted from SWTOR and GW2 for flavor.

    I also laughed at their “we want to reward people for exploring” line. Do the people who think this shit up not understand that the exploration is it’s own damn reward for people who like exploring? By adding loot, exp, achievements or whatever to the exploration you devalue it for explorers just so achievement focused people will actually do it because it counts as ‘content’ since it has a minimap marker.

    But at least the whole server-less thing doesn’t sound terrible. I don’t agree with the assertion that it destroys communities; if only because server-wide communities don’t really exist now for most games.

    When games are structured almost entirely around solo and small group activities players almost never have to look beyond their immediate guild to do damn near anything it’s almost impossible to have a greater server wide community. You tend to get a series of smaller communities instead, mostly centered around guilds and forums. Both of those communities can easily exist in the proposed one server model.

  5. Hehe! Thanks. Saved me the trouble of commenting.

    Other than to say I do play with other people who have roughly similar playstyles. Just none of them blog. Or even read blogs.

    • I have not the joy to play with you Bhagpuss, but I still play the same : My pleasure in GW2 is to forget all plans and just wander off, trying to jump at high point, killing and being killed, discovering new paysage and killing rabbit for the joy of being a mischievous mass-rabbit-murderer.

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